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Case 69. Proper Credit


Nancy Singh, who has just been promoted to full professor at a prestigious university, has an edited book which has languished several years at a publisher. The book is partly based on a conference, but because several of those who attended the conference failed to produce, she was forced to solicit separate chapters and perform other work over the years. While the original contract negotiated included the names of two coeditors, neither contributed to the development of the manuscript. In fact, when Nancy requests help periodically, one of the "co-editors", with whom she shares an office, did not respond. The manuscript is finally submitted, given a good review and set to go forward when an internal board change at the publisher again causes a publication delay. Another year passes and one day, without warning a fax is sent to Nancy from one of the coeditors, requesting she as a "contributor" forward a permission check-off to the publisher. Nancy reads the page and discovers that the order of authors has been transposed with the co-editor's name replacing hers as first author. She quickly telephones the co-editor who claims that she is principal author and then hangs up the telephone. Later, Nancy finds out that the editor has received a letter from the co-editor claiming that she is taking over the book. Since no agreement was made over authorship and Carolyn has contributed nothing to production of the book, Nancy ponders her next steps. Shortly after the confrontation, she is having lunch with a university colleague who is new in the department, who says out of the blue, "I can't really understand your co-editor; she has a great university degree, but do you know she has no publications to her name whatsoever." 


What should Nancy do:

  1. Report to the College Dean and possibly the Provost, her co-editor's behavior and the effort to expropriate the manuscript to prevent any attempt to use it for promotion?
  2. Challenge the authorship change through the University press, including oversight board or other authority to force a change in the authorship,
  3. Challenge her co-editor directly and threaten to go to college or university press authorities with the truth about the ordering of authorship of the manuscript.

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.